(Photo: REUTERS/Alex Gallardo)
Three family members of Crystal Cathedral's founder, the Rev. Robert H. Schuller, including the executive producer of the "Hour of Power," were fired by a vote of the ministry's board last week, it emerged Tuesday. In addition, ministry leaders are considering putting the ailing "Hour of Power" into reruns.
The signature televangelist show, the "Hour of Power," originally hosted by Schuller, has been losing popularity just as the ministry was experiencing increasing difficulties following its bankruptcy claim. The show will now temporarily go into reruns for several weeks while the church determines its next steps, church officials said.
Among those dismissed were one of the producers of the show and Robert H. Schuller's daughter, Gretchen Penner, as well as her husband, Jim Penner, the executive producer and Jim Coleman, the husband of Senior Pastor Sheila Schuller Coleman, who was the director of creative services. Five other individuals might possibly still be terminated amid the shake-up, according to The Orange County Register.
John Charles, the new president of Crystal Cathedral Ministries, said in a statement released to the press: "Organizational changes affecting ministry leaders are never easy to make, especially when it involves individuals who have devoted their lives to this ministry and have served with great distinction." Charles added that the dismissals were a "very difficult decision the Crystal Cathedral Ministries board of directors prayerfully deemed was necessary in order to make a change in direction for the 'Hour of Power' and reverse recent declining donations and viewership."
Robert H. Schuller, who reportedly abstained from voting together with his wife Arvella, reportedly not wanting the issue to become a "family dispute," did not know who had been voted out until after the board's decision, and was reported to be "grieved" by the board's decision.
At the same time, the ministry's founder seems to be approving the idea of broadcasting reruns of the show. The Rev. Schuller reportedly said the reruns might create a "very positive situation for the church," as the founder believes that "the reason people stopped supporting the ministry is that they don't care for the music and the preaching. So if you give them some music and preaching they want, they'll come back."
It was last month that the board was also considering cutting the airing time of the "Hour of Power" to 30 minutes.
Robert A. Schuller, the founder's son and the former senior pastor, told journalists he sees the changes in leadership as a smart move, and "normal business practice to change leadership when the leadership leads an institution into bankruptcy."
The news adds to financial and organizational troubles of the ministry, which saw its church's attendance and donations dwindle in recent months. The ministry also made another tough decision last month, removing Schuller Coleman from her position of chief executive officer and president of the ministry. At the time, Cathedral leaders removed both Schuller Coleman and Penner from the board of directors, but Penner continued in his role overseeing the television program.
Crystal Cathedral's December donations plunged by 68 percent, as the ministry collected $7.3 million in 2010 and $2.3 million in Dec. 2011, according to The Los Angeles Times. The fall in donations reportedly now has the ministry's vendors worried that they will not be paid back. Some of the vendors have been waiting for years to be paid after Crystal Cathedral Ministries fell into bankruptcy, the newspaper reported.
The Crystal Cathedral campus was sold to the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange last month following a long bankruptcy process after the ministry filed for Chapter 11 in 2010.
Robert H. Schuller founded the ministry nearly 50 years ago and led the "Hour of Power" to be one of the most popular televised sermon shows in the country for a while, watched by a million viewers every week. Today, the founder and his wife seem to be in the dark about the future of the program, as they told reporters.